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A scheduled ancient monument built in 1795, the Newcomen Beam Engine at Elsecar Heritage Centre is considered to be one of the world’s most important pieces of industrial heritage. The engine had remained stationary since the 1950s and the building had fallen into disrepair.

Purcell was commissioned to conserve the existing building fabric, enhance the visitor experience by re-opening the site with improved access and health and safety measures and re-power the engine through a new hydraulic system. The project is the first in a phase of regeneration for Elsecar village.

Upon removal, significant rot was discovered within the structural support for the headgear which required replacement in order to ensure its longevity. A new oak structure was subsequently installed.

In order to restore the historic engine, components were temporarily removed to enable recording, repairs and repainting. 

In order to accurately portray the history of the engine, the missing top section of the beam was deliberately not replaced.

A series of new hydraulic systems were installed to bring the engine back to life safely and the decayed timber headgear was removed and replaced with a new oak structure based upon historic images of the site. 

The Engine House and engine are now due to be removed from the ‘Heritage at Risk’ register.

New shaft covers combine safe maintenance access with a glazed panel allowing visitors to view into the shaft. 

There is now an accessible viewing and interpretation plateau which aids the visitor experience and educational opportunities.

The project was supported by local volunteers assisting with the initial site clearance. Local apprentices were involved in site works and members of the Elsecar Heritage Railway helped to restore the engine.

The site reopened in 2015, the opening ceremony was attended by thousands. Visitor numbers have greatly increased and the guided tours are very popular.

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